MIT researchers use robotic platform to track microbial populations as they evolve

January 4, 2022 |

In Massachusetts, using a new robotic platform, MIT researchers can simultaneously track hundreds of microbial populations as they evolve new proteins or other molecules.

Natural evolution is a slow process that relies on the gradual accumulation of genetic mutations. In recent years, scientists have found ways to speed up the process on a small scale, allowing them to rapidly create new proteins and other molecules in their lab.

This widely used technique, known as directed evolution, has yielded new antibodies to treat cancer and other diseases, enzymes used in biofuel production, and imaging agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Researchers at MIT have now developed a robotic platform that can perform 100 times as many directed-evolution experiments in parallel, giving many more populations the chance to come up with a solution, while monitoring their progress in real-time. In addition to helping researchers develop new molecules more rapidly, the technique could also be used to simulate natural evolution and answer fundamental questions about how it works.

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Category: Research

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